Vikings hoopers get ready for new season

The Vikings men’s basketball team has been busy preparing for the upcoming season, which begins Nov. 8 against Linfield College.

They enter the season looking to improve upon a 2013 showing, which saw them playing in their first postseason game since they were the 13th seed in the 2009 NCAA tournament. San Diego ultimately ousted them from the Tournament, defeating them 85–67, but it was an important step for a team that’s steadily becoming one of the better programs in the Big Sky.

“It was just good for our program to be back in postseason play,” coach Tyler Geving recently said in an interview with College Hoops Daily. “When you are in a one-bid league, it is obviously a good stepping stone to make the postseason and build off of that going into the next year.”

Of course, the biggest improvement the Vikings have made during Geving’s tenure is their leap from a program on academic probation in Geving’s first two years (2009–10) to one of the top national programs according to the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate, a metric that quantitatively measures the academic performance of an entire team. Portland State’s men’s basketball ranks in the top 10 percent of the nation.

But this summer, in the absence of pertinent studying, the Vikings traveled to the Bahamas as part of their preseason preparation.

The Vikings finished their Caribbean tour a solid 2–1, beating the Real Deal Shock, a professional Bahamian team, 100–48; beating the PJ Stringers 69–54; and losing their final game to the Providence Storm in a narrow 75–73 loss. Last year’s leading scorer, DaShaun Wiggins, scored 21 points in the loss.

Local sophomore transfer Bryce White—one of six new players signed over the off-season—scored 11 points in the final Bahamian game. Of these six signees, two of the more intriguing prospects are Calaen Robinson and Iziahiah Sweeney. Robinson transferred from the James Harden alma mater, Arizona State, where he averaged 1.6 points and 1.1 assists in a limiting 6.2 minutes per game. Upon his arrival to collegiate play, he was ranked as high as the 19th-best point guard in the country by ESPN. Because of his transfer status, he will redshirt this year before appearing on the floor as a Viking in 2015–16.

Sweeney also comes to the Park Blocks with a highly regarded reputation; he was ranked the 44th-best shooting guard in the country by ESPN, 33rd overall on the West Coast, and 19th overall in California.

Portland native Collin Spickerman, who attended Jesuit High school, will be leaving Clark College, which he led to a 27–2 record last season while being named the 2013–14 NWAACC West Region Most Valuable Player, to complement a frontcourt that will be without the now-alum Kyle Richardson, last year’s best rebounding big.

When looking ahead at the upcoming season, when asked to gauge his goals and expectations, Geving was candid and level headed, “I would be disappointed if we do not finish in the top half of the league. We have enough talent on paper that we need to play up to that level, but all 12 teams in our league have the same goal: getting to the NCAA tourney. You need to stay healthy and have a little luck.”